Travel Gear

By Melissa at 5:34 PM
So almost everyone we've told about our trip has asked "How do you pack for an entire year?" This was also one of the first questions we asked ourselves when thinking about embarking on this trip. The answer is, it depends. We generally came down in the middle if the range goes from 'bring everything but the kitchen sink' to 'wearing one pair of underwear the whole time.' We wanted to pack light, but also be prepared for most of the situations we would encounter.

We'll each travel with a total of about 30 to 35 pounds of clothes and gear between our carry on luggage and our small day bags. This definitely does not qualify as traveling light, but you have to balance many factors including how often you'll have to carry your bag on your back (our bags have wheels and a back pack harness), how often you want to do laundry and how many times you're willing to wear the same thing twice. At this weight I'm easily able to lift the larger bag above my head (i.e. I'll be able to lift it into the overhead storage bins on an airplane) which is usually how I gauge whether or not I've over packed.

Almost everything we're taking with us
From Travel Gear

Clothing

Choosing the clothing we were going to bring took almost as long as planning our destinations. Okay maybe that’s because Melissa likes to shop, but it is difficult to choose clothes you have to wear for an entire year.  We used as many items from our closet as we could, but did find it necessary to buy a fair amount specifically for the trip. If you’re going to pack into a carry-on suitcase, you’re going to need to do laundry in your hotel room and so you need to make sure key items will dry overnight.  Also, as many other blogs point out your clothes should be as comfortable as possible. You will be spending ALL day in the same clothes and sometimes more if you take overnight buses.  You also don’t need to worry about bringing clothes for 100% of the situations you’re going encounter.  You can always buy (and toss) clothes along the way.

Melissa’s Clothing
  • Wind-proof, rain resistant jacket, aka soft shell jacket (1)
  • Waterproof shell/jacket with hood (1)
  • Sweater (1)
  • Long pants (2): light quick-dry pants and jeans.
  • Capri Shorts (1)
  • Skirt (1)
  • T-shirts (4)
  • Tank tops (1)
  • Long-sleeve pullover shirt (1)
  • Long-sleeve button down (1)
  • Pajama set (pants and shirt) (1)
  • Socks (5 pairs)
  • Underwear and bras (7)
  • Bathing suit (1)
  • Hat (1)
  • Scarf (1)
  • Glasses (1)
  • Sunglasses (1)
  • Sandals (1)
  • Waterproof hiking shoes/cross-trainers (1)
  • Walking shoes (1)

Brian’s Clothing
  • Zip-up fleece (1)
  • Waterproof jacket/shell with hood (1)
  • Sweater (1)
  • Long pants (2): light, quick-dry pants and jeans.
  • Shorts (1)
  • T-shirts (4)
  • Long-sleeve button down (1)
  • Short-sleeve button down (1)
  • Pajama pants (1)
  • Socks (5 pairs)
  • Underwear (5)
  • Swim trunks (1)
  • Hat (1)
  • Glasses (1)
  • Sunglasses (1)
  • Sandals (1)
  • Waterproof hiking shoes/cross-trainers (1)

Luggage

We brought a total of 6 bags with us:
  • Wheeled backpacks, carry-on size (2) 
  • Detachable small backpacks (2)
  • Camera bag (1)
  • Reusable shopping tote (1)

Osprey Meridian bags - Everything will fit into these four bags
From Travel Gear

Osprey Meridian 22” Wheeled Backpacks (2)
These bags are on the expensive side, but they have some great features. We thought having a bag with both sturdy wheels and a proper backpack harness was essential. Most of the time we’ll be able to use the wheels (When did airport terminals get so big!?) but the backpack will come in handy when we are staying in a fourth floor walk up or have to walk down unpaved roads. They also come with detachable backpacks that can double as daypacks which is nice. There are many great bags that fall into this category so picking the best bag for you has a lot to do with personal preference. The Eagle Creek Switchback wheeled backpack also gets very high ratings as do the Rick Steve’s and R.E.I versions.

We also wanted the option of carrying our bags on flights and to be able to keep them close on buses and trains. And in terms of weight we’re both ‘vertically challenged’ (5’4” and 5’6”) so there was no way we were going to be able to carry 80L packs or even 60L packs.  Plus, you’d be surprised how much clothing weighs.  And there were going to be times when we’d have to carry our main bags and our small backpacks at the same time so we erred on the compact side.

Brian’s Osprey bag weighs 35 pounds when packed.
Melissa’s Osprey bag weighs 25 pounds when packed.

Side Note: We decided that if we needed something for one of our later destinations we would just buy it en route or upon arrival in that country instead of carrying it through 10 countries. Thanks to globalization, we've found you can pretty much buy almost anything you need if you are traveling through a major city in many countries. This of course does not apply if you are traveling to remote areas and you can't expect to find specialty items like waterproof hiking shoes. For example we'll need a mosquito net when we get to SE Asia, but that's not until more than half way through our trip so we'll just buy one when we get to Bangkok.

Small Backpacks (2)
We used the zip off bags that came with the Osprey Meridian bags. If you need to walk long distances it is much easier to zip the bags onto the suitcases and carry it around. When flying we unzip them and use these bags as our second carry-on or personal item. They can double as day bags and they'll also come in handy if we need to carry around a lot of gear or groceries during the day.

Camera Bag (1)
Choosing a camera bag took almost as long as choosing our main luggage. There are a million options, which is great because there seems to be one for every single occasion or preference. We chose the Lowepro Passport Sling. It doesn’t look like a camera bag, it expands for extra capacity so you can throw a sweater, water bottle and a snack inside. Other top contenders included Crumpler and Timbuk2 branded bags.

Other Bags (1)
We also brought a reusable shopping tote which we had a billion of lying around the house. They pack down to almost nothing are handy for grocery shopping.

Electronics

I’m just going to tell you up front we brought a lot of electronics.  I guess we fit into the category of 'flashpackers' who can't leave home without their electronics. I mean with so much free wi-fi, why would you? But really, whether or not you choose to bring a lot of electronic gear completely depends on your personal travel style.

Here are the pros and cons as we see them. Pros: You can easily keep in touch with your family and friends, you can easily check for and book cheap travel arrangements, if you plan to do work on the road you can easily do so, and fewer arguments with your techie husband over who gets to use the computer. Cons: You worry about them being stolen, it adds more weight to your bags and you might spend more time squirreled away in your room on your computer than out exploring. At the very least, I recommend bringing a good camera, a netbook and bring or buy an unlocked phone that works on a GSM network.

 Here is what we decided to bring:
  • 13” Macbook Pro (with upgraded 600GB hard drive)
  • 11” Macbook Air
  • Kindle
  • iPhones (2)
  • Canon Rebel T1i (dSLR) with two lenses and accessories
  • Point and shoot camera: Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS5k
  • Data and picture back up: 1 Terabyte Portable Hard Drive
  • Online backup via BackBlaze and Picassa

13” Macbook Pro (with upgraded 600GB hard drive)
This is our powerhouse computer that Brian is using to do whatever it is he does with websites/programming and for picture storage and editing.

11” Macbook Air
At some point we realized that we needed a second computer.  Yes, it might seem ridiculous to bring two computers, but if you’re married to a technology junkie, you understand that having your own computer is essential to the health of your marriage.  I don’t want to be stuck without a way to surf the web and make plans for future destinations.  Since I wasn’t going to be doing any work on the machine, I didn’t care about performance or hard drive space, I just needed light and small. We had an iPad, but I honestly hated it and we sold it before the trip. But if you have an iPad and really like using it, I think it would be a great tool for a trip like this.  If you're not a Mac person, a netbook will also do.

Kindle
We fit dozens of books on this.  It weighs absolutely nothing and you can download books for free from anywhere there is wi-fi or a cell signal. This is optional if you find that you can read books on your computer or iPhone, but reading books on a backlit screen gives me a headache.

iPhones
We didn’t even leave the iPhones at home on our honeymoon so we certainly weren’t going to leave them at home on this trip.  We unlocked and jailbroke the phones before we left so we can swap out SIM chips whenever we need to.  Also, the Skype application for the iPhone is just about the coolest thing ever to keep in touch.  When Brian visited Vietnam a couple of years ago, he was sitting in a cafe in Na Trang that happened to have free wi-fi, so he whipped out his iPhone and called me back in San Francisco just to say hi.  We loaded them up with cool travel apps like language translators, temperature, weight and currency conversion calculators, mindless games and the Kindle app so I could read my books when I didn’t feel like pulling out the Kindle.

Canon Rebel T1i
This is Canon’s entry-level digital SLR (dSLR).  Even in auto mode it takes pictures far superior to your average point and shoot. After we got married we realized that pictures are really important so we wanted to be take a camera that would be able to capture our amazing trip. If you’re not already a serious photographer, trust me you won’t notice the difference between the entry-level Canon or Nikon dSLRs and the higher end models.  If you’re amateur photographers like us, I also recommend taking a one or two-day photography class to learn how to use the features on your camera. You can learn a lot even in a day or two. I’m sure taking a four or six week class would have been even better, but we just didn’t have time.

We brought one zoom lens and one fixed focal length length lens with a low aperture for indoor shots.  I won’t go into any detail about which lenses we brought because I think this is partially personal preference and also a lot about what kinds of photographs you’ll be taking (architecture, safari, landscape, portraits). Talk to an experienced photographer and do a lot of research online before you commit to buying anything. We also brought a few accessories: UV filters, circular polarizers, lens cleaning cloths, multiple SD cards and an extra battery.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS5k
12.1 Megapixels, 12x optical zoom, 25mm ultra wide angle lens and compact size. This camera takes really great shots and you don’t always want to be toting your big DSLR all over the place.  We considered the Canon S95 which has a lower aperture (better low light shots) but only 3x optical zoom. We're still not sure if we made the right decision, but we hope the Lumix delivers in the field. 

1 Terabyte Portable Hard Drive
We plan to back up everything onto this hard drive and carry it in a separate bag from the main computer and camera.  This is a must of you are bringing a digital camera or are planning to do work on your computer. Your computer or camera might get stolen, wet, dropped or otherwise ruined. You just never know.  When are lucky enough to find a fast internet connection, we are also going to back up key files and pics ‘in the cloud’ via Picasa and Dropbox.

Online Backup
We both use BackBlaze at home as a cloud backup solution.  It's super cheap ($5 a month for unlimited storage) and runs in the background automatically so you never forget to backup your files.  We're also going to upload select photographs to Picassa, so if all of our gear is stolen (including the portable HD) we have multiple ways to get back our precious photographs.

Miscellaneous Gear

First Aid Kit
Band aids, blister cushions, antibiotic cream (Neosporin), hydrocortisone cream, pain killers (Ibuprofen), antacid pills (Tums), anti-diarrheal pills (Imodium), electrolyte replacement tablets (Nuun), ginger chews (anti-nausea), cold-medication (day and night-time), anti-histamines (Benadryl), tweezers, Qtips.

Prescription Medication
Antibiotics, sleep aid (Ambien), anti-malarials (Malarone). For the prescription medicines we take normally we called or had the pharmacy call our health insurance plans and ask for a vacation exception which allows them to fill multiple refills of your prescriptions at once.

Other:
  • Toiletries 
    • Conditioner, razors, toothpaste, insect repellant (DEET), etc.
    • Discovering shaving oil was a nice plus. We usually just use soap, but sometimes your skin is sensitive in certain places or from being out in the sun. Pacific Shaving Company and a few others make it and sell it online. You only need a few drops so each bottle, good for dozens of shaves is about the size of a bottle of eye drops
  • Inflatable neck pillow
  • Travel tissue packs 
  • Clothes line (2)
    • We got the kind you could use without clothes pins from Flexoline which is a big space saver. Also make sure you get the kind with the loops at the end and not the suction cups. The suction cups just aren't strong enough. We also brought a carabiner for each end of the line so we could attach it to poles, rings or other fasteners you can't slip or wrap the loop around.  
  • Laundry soap
    • An acquaintance recommended Zote brand which we are very happy with. It's a huge bar of soap that costs about $1.00, smells great and can be found at your local Latino supermarket. We cut it up into 4 chunks to make it more portable. I also used it as body soap when we stayed at a hotel that didn't have soap and it was great, nice and gentle on the skin.  
  • Universal sink plug
  • Compression sacks and stuff sacks
    • In addition to saving space, these are also good for separating clean from dirty clothes.
  • Travel guide (for next destination only, there are english language bookstores in most major cities)
  • Electronic travel guides (Brian downloaded a ton of Lonely Planet books onto his iPhone before leaving)
  • Phrase/language guide (for next destination only or on our iPhone)
  • Notebook and Pen
  • Luggage locks and padlocks
  • Ziplock bags
  • Travel sewing kit
  • Silk sleeping sack
  • Swim googles
  • Shoe bags or large ziplock bags for shoes
  • Metal water bottles
  • Ear plugs
  • Deck of cards
  • Headlamps
  • Earphones
  • Earphone splitter 
I'm sure there are a couple of small items we forgot to list here, but this is close to everything.